Statler, c. 1920. Image source: BECHS
Ellsworth Statler, flush from having achieved his dream of building a hotel in New York City (Hotel Pennsylvania, opened 1919), received requests for one of his hotels from Boston and Chicago, but he turned his attention again to Buffalo, location of his home and first hotel. He had the staff and trusted architects (George B. Post & Sons, New York), and he had Louis Rorimer to design the interiors of his buildings. Now 56 years old, he wanted to build his most handsome hotel to date in his adopted hometown.
And, ever the shrewd businessman, Statler identified a location that was not yet the center of political and civic activity but which he believed would soon become that new center: Niagara Square. To that end, he purchased the entire block fronting Niagara Square bounded by Genesee, Delaware, Franklin and Mohawk. The old Castle Inn was demolished as were the other buildings on the site, among them the first location of Bryant and Stratton.
The hotel's design was English Renaissance Revival. It was to be 265 feet tall, 18 stories, employing 900 people and
of serving 5,000 meals daily. Construction began in May, 1921 by Buffalonian Charles Mosier, company vice-president
and general manager of all its construction activities who died before the hotel was complete. The approximate cost of the
construction was $8 million dollars. Statler planned for the future domination of his hotel by building it with 1,100 rooms, more than
all the other Buffalo hotels combined. And he had the builders pour foundations for an addition of 500 rooms (artist drawing here)
to be added when necessary to discourage other hotel investors. See the floor plans here.
Statler realized that his planned elegant hotel could not succeed with Buffalo's elite so long as that class preferred to
frequent the venerable Iroquois Hotel at Main & Eagle Street. He attempted to hire away the Iroquois' popular hotel manager,
Elmore Green, but the latter remained loyal to his hotel. So, for the first and last time, Statler eliminated the competition by
buying the Iroquois hotel for $1,825,412 ($20,714,225 in 2006 dollars) and closing it the day the new Statler opened.
He had no difficulty hiring Mr.Green to manage his new hotel. The elite followed and the Statler Hotel would
become the place in Buffalo to be seen, to meet, to make deals, to have lunch in the Terrace Room overlooking
Niagara Square for the next fifty years.
The grand opening was May 19, 1923. The Buffalo Evening News casually referred to Statler as "a Buffalonian
who has chosen to erect his monument while he lived. That monument is his new Statler." A special train was hired to
bring 200 public officials and prominent hotelmen and businessmen from New York City to see and celebrate the new
hotel. The night before the grand opening, 50 invitees sat down to dinner served on a gold service especially designed
for the new hotel. Every utensil on the table was made of gold and would afterward be reserved for "occasions of
outstanding importance." On opening night, 2,000 invited guests sat down for dinner in two seatings. The public was
invited to tour the hotel the next day between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. After the celebration, the hotel immediately went to
work receiving its first conventions. As for the guests of the Iroquois Hotel, any remaining there after the Statler opened
were immediately transferred to the new hotel on May 20.
Statler purchased land at the corner of Delaware and Mohawk across the street from his hotel so that
a theater could be built to provide a symbiotic relationship with his hotel: "Dinner and theater." The Erlanger
Theater building will be demolished in 2007 for the construction of the new Federal courthouse. Statler also
had purchased land at 138 Delaware and constructed a parking garage for the hotel, anticipating that automobiles
would become the dominant form of transportation. This structure was demolished in 1992 and a six-story
140,000 square foot office building constructed in 1993.
From the Buffalo Evening News, May 19, 1923:
Represents Last Word in Hotel Construction
Entering the hotel from Delaware Avenue the Statler visitor finds himself in a vestibule which leads to the main lobby. This extends from Delaware Avenue to Franklin street. The decorative atmosphere is that of the Italian renaissance, the construction being of Botticino marble. A 28-foot ceiling and the Spanish construction give an impression of massiveness.
Tapestries, velvets and mohairs used in the decorations and furnishings harmonize with the decorative atmosphere, except for the modern touches demanded by the size and character of the structure. The rugs are Ispahan in motif and coloring.
At the right of the main lobby are the lounge and tea rooms. Beyond, overlooking Niagara Square, is the formal dining room, rising in five terraces from the lobby foor. To the left is the foyer of the main ball room. This room is done in antique gold with sky ceiling. It is surrounded by a balcony. Organs have been placed both in the formal dining room and in the ball room.
The main office of the hotel is in the center of the lobby. Here the guest registers, receives his mail upon arrival and is assigned to his room. Keys are kept on each floor and mail is delivered to the clerks who have charge of the floors. When the guest departs from the hotel his bill is printed by an automatic machine to be the first of its kind in any hotel.
There are four dining rooms besides that overlooking Niagara Square. The men's cafe is of Spanish design and architecture, and is richly decorated. The Travertine stone used in the room was brought from a village at the foot of Mount Vesuvius and is of volcanic formation.
The Dutch grill is of modern design with a canopy effect ceiling and unique decorations. The cafeteria and lunch counter are done in red and black, the color combination being most unusual and daring.
There are also a number of private dining rooms, including the Chinese room, with lacquered walls and panels, the Georgian room, a spacious, restful place of subdued atmosphere, and three smaller rooms finished with French hand printed paper.
In the basement are a number of service departments, including the kitchen, food storehouses, a 24-chair barber shop and a Turkish bath. The latter department is strikingly done in black and white tile. It has a 40-foot swimming pool and a large dormitory.
On the mezzanine floor are offices of half a dozen luncheon clubs and several civic organizations. There is also one of the largest and best furnished beauty parlors to be found in any hotel in the country. The manager's suite is also on this floor.
There are fourteen floors of guest rooms. Every room has a private bath and 97 percent of the rooms have both a tub and shower bath. In every room is a full-length mirror, bed light, circulating ice water and the Statler service door. Three color schemes are used in the guest rooms, rose, green and blue. All of the rooms of the same floor are of the same color scheme.
One floor is given over to service departments, including linen rooms, sewing rooms, carpentry, upholstery and paint shops. A radio broacasting station is on the 18th floor and is so arranged that a program given in any room of the hotel may be broadcast from this station.
Ellsworth Statler died in New York City in 1928 at age 64, 32 years after arriving in Buffalo to begin his extraordinary career.
As he had specified, the only company acknowledgment was that the lights in all his hotels were dimmed at 2 p.m., the start of his
funeral service. Employees and guests paused for a minute the semi-darkness. He had completed one additional Statler Hotel,
in Boston, before his death. The company continued without him; his widow, former secretary Alice Seidler, became Chairman of the
Board of the Hotels Statler Company. She successfully ran the company for decades, and the Statler Hotel chain was one of the
few to successfully weather the Depression and the economic effects of a hotel construction boom that left others bankrupt. When
times improved, the company built more hotels in Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Dallas, and Hartford. In 1953,
the Hotels Statler was ranked among the top 10 "best managed" companies in the country by the American Institute of Management.
And, of that number, the Institute Vice President declared the Hotels Statler to be the "best company in production efficiency."
In 1954, the Hilton Hotel chain purchased the Statler Hotels for $111 million dollars, the largest real estate transaction ever made.
The Buffalo Hotel became known as the Statler Hilton Hotel, and began its transition to office space. In 1973, Buffalo real
estate investor William D. Hassett bought the hotel from the Hilton Hotels Corporation; at that time there were eight floors of office
space and seven floors of hotel rooms. In 1982, the Statler ceased to be used as a hotel. After many years and a number of
owners, international investor Bashar Issa purchased the Statler Towers in 2006. The complex is currently being renovated
for a return to hotel use, condominiums, and offices.
After selling the Hotels Statler Company, Alice Seidler Statler worked full-time as chair of the Statler Foundation, a
charity created by her husband's will, which set aside one-sixth of the Statler stock as an educational trust fund. The Foundation,
currently vigorous and well-capitalized, provides scholarships for students enrolled in culinary arts or hotel managment; provides
grants for college facilities, curriculum development, professorships, research, etc. In Western New York, Erie Community College
and Niagara University have been beneficiaries of Statler Foundation support.
Alice Seidler Statler died in 1969.
Part 1: Statler's Restaurant
Part 2: Statler's Pan-American Hotel
Part 3: The Hotel Statler
Part 4: Statler Estate
Part 5: The (new) Statler Hotel
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